Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No stars, but worth a detour

To be honest, I already grew tired of comments after comments of how unfair Michelin Guide is, or how unprofessional their inspectors are in terms of judging chinese cuisine etc etc from local food critics and columnists. To me, it's either you accept the Guide as one school of thoughts in judging the restaurants and their cuisines, or just leave the Guide alone or pretend it doesn't exist or something. Please don't try to stand on the high ground and shove your so-called professional opinions in front of me saying what should or should not be in the Guide, okay?

In commenting on the star rating system Michelin employed, I like how Patricia Wells, herself a world-famous restaurant critic (her column appears regularly on international herald tribune), once put it. She basically put restaurants into 2 categories: petit fours restaurants and non-petit four restaurants. And to quote her, “Petit four restaurants are usually the starred ones, elegant establishments showered with flowers, with crisp linens and waiters in evening jackets; they have plenty of show, but are not always strong on regional culinary character. The non-petit four establishments tend to be small, modest, generally inexpensive restaurants, those little spots most travelers seek out when looking for regional flavor, local color, simpler food. Most often, these are not the places that win the hearts and palates of Michelin's dozen inspectors.” Well said, and there you have it.

Well, my foodie friend has rated his favorite restaurants on his facebook note earlier, and here i am sharing my two cents on some my favorite yet unstarred local gems in town:

(not in this order)
1. 澳洲牛奶公司 Australia Dairy Company
sitting here for 10 minutes, and you experience the typical hong kong culture, with long lines of customers waiting outside, hectic but efficient service, and not so friendly wait staff - especially if you think more than 10 seconds about what to order after you sit down. yet it's said that the scrambled eggs here are the best in the world, and a declaration: i am a proud member of "澳洲牛奶公司appreciation society", a facebook group with more than 8000 members to date.

2. 東寶小廚 Tung Po Kitchen
not necessarily the cleanest place on earth for a meal - it's located inside a wet market building - but this is the best place to experience dai pai dong-style food in town. well i am saying this partly because of its proximity to our home. my favorite includes fried prawns with salty egg yolk (黄金蝦) and fried rice wrapped in lotus leaf (荷葉飯).

3. 彭慶記 Pang's Kitchen
serving traditional cantonese fare often with a creative twist (for example, sweet and sour pork ribs with strawberries 士多啤梨生炒骨) this is the perfect place to go (and the one we frequented) when we want a simple family-style dinner for a comfortable evening out with friends.

4. 西貢全記海鮮 Chuen Kee Restaurant
picking the seafood live from the fish tank, and have the restaurant cooked in any way you specify - that's how a typical seafood restaurant in hongkong works. and chuen kee is perhaps the most reasonably-priced and consistant one in sai kung, a traditional fishing village famous for well what else, seafood.

5. 香港大學校友會 Hong Kong University Alumni Association
run by a former chef at luk yu restaurant, this place serves no-nonsense old-style cantonese cuisine in the heart of town. must-try dishes included almond and pork soup (杏汁豬肺湯), fried pigeon and ham (雲腿鴿片) and baked salted chicken (鹽焗雞). be sure to find a HKU alumni to bring you in as this place's supposed to be for members only.

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